Stay with Me (Wait for You #3)(6) by J. Lynn

And then he was off and we were alone again.

“Anyway,” Hot Bartender Dude said. “How about I make you my special drink?”

Usually when a guy offers to make me their “special drink,” I’d run for the hills screaming bloody murder and mayhem, but I found myself nodding again, which totally cemented the fact I was shallow and maybe a little dumb.

And totally not in control of the situation, which was a . . . unique experience for me.

I watched him pivot around, and the muscles of his back rippled under his shirt as he reached for the pricey liquor on display behind the bar. I didn’t see which bottle he grabbed, but he moved with a fluid grace, grabbing one of the rock glasses, used for smaller mixed drinks and shots over ice.

The fact that I remembered the kind of glass made me want to bang my head off the bar top. I also resisted that urge—thank God. As I watched him make the drink, I tried to figure out his age. He had to be at least a year or two older than me. Within a few seconds, he placed an impressive mixed drink in front of me.

It was red on the top, then graduating into the color of a sunset, with a cherry to garnish. I picked up the drink and took a sip. My taste buds about had a mouth-gasm at the fruity flavor. “You can’t even taste the liquor.”

“I know.” He looked smug. “It’s smooth, but proceed with caution. Drink too fast and too much, it’ll knock you flat on your pretty ass.”

Chalking the “pretty ass” comment up to typical bartender charm, I took another tiny drink. I didn’t have to worry about being careful. I never overindulged when it came to liquor anyway. “What’s it called?”

“Jax.”

My brows rose. “Interesting.”

“Oh, it is.” He folded his arms on the bar top and leaned in, giving me what I was quickly learning was a distracting and devastatingly sexy half grin. “So, you got any plans for tonight?”

I stared at him. That was all I was capable of doing. Besides the fact that after a handful of minutes of being in his presence, I’d almost forgotten why I was here, which was not to socialize, he seriously couldn’t be doing what I thought he was doing.

Flirting with me.

Asking me out.

These things simply did not happen in Calla land. I couldn’t even believe they happened to really hot chicks like Teresa or Brit or Avery, but I definitely knew they did not happen to me.

Hot Bartender Dude shifted his weight forward, and that did amazing things with the muscles in his arms, and then those gorgeous eyes locked on mine, and I forgot how to breathe for a second. The way his lips curved in that moment told me he was fully aware of his effect. “In case I need to clarify what I just said, I’m wanting to know if you’re free to do something with me.”

Three

Holy poo.

It was a good thing that I’d placed the drink down because I probably would’ve dropped it. “You don’t even know my name,” I blurted out.

His gaze lowered, giving me a view of ridiculously long lashes. “What’s your name, honey?”

I gaped at him in what was probably a very unattractive manner. He couldn’t be serious.

Hot Bartender Dude waited as he lifted those lashes.

Oh my God, was he really serious?

“Do you ask every girl out who walks into this bar?” If so, after taking one long look around the bar, he had some real slim pickings. With the exception of the guy who’d gotten the beer and was sitting with a couple other guys, most of the people in the bar were a few years shy of retiring.

His half grin spread. “Only the good-looking ones.”

I went back to gaping at him.

Part of me wasn’t surprised by his response. I had a face. Always had a face, ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and was wearing onesies. Mom used to praise how symmetrical my face was, how perfect it was. When I was younger, I looked like one of those porcelain baby dolls and I’d been paraded around as such. And as I grew up, my features had stayed symmetrical—full lips, high cheekbones, small nose, and blue eyes to match the blond hair—real, blond hair.

But the key words here were had and was, and while I was a lot of things, stupid wasn’t one of them.

Well, on most days.

Right now, staring at this guy, I was feeling about three kinds of stupid.

“Correction,” Hot Bartender Dude continued, grinning until that dimple appeared in his right cheek. “Hot girls with sexy legs.”

This guy was so full of it. “I’m sitting down! How can you see my legs?”

He chuckled deeply, and damn if that wasn’t a nice sound, too. “Honey, I saw you walk into the bar, and the first thing I noticed was those legs of yours.”

Okay. I did have really nice legs. Three days a week, I pretended to be into my fitness and ran. I was lucky when it came to my legs. Fat never deposited on my thighs or calves. It ended up in my ass and hips. And okay, there was also a pleasant hum trilling through my veins in response to his words, but I . . .

I sucked in a sharp breath, going cold on the inside.

Hot Bartender Dude and I were face-to-face, full frontal face-to-face, and we had been this entire time. There was no way he hadn’t seen the scar on my face, and not once since laying eyes on Hot Bartender Dude had I thought about the scar. So caught off guard by him, it hadn’t even crossed my mind.

But now that I was thinking about it, I immediately dipped my chin down and to the left as I wrapped my suddenly boneless fingers around the glass. Now I knew he couldn’t be serious, because he was totally a part of the Hot Guy Brigade, and I was Calla, the friend of the Hot Guy Brigade. Not Calla, the girl they blatantly flirted with.

Maybe he was on crack.

I decided to ignore what he’d said as I studiously forced myself to remember why I was here. “It is a really good drink.” Keeping my right cheek to him, I started checking out the bar again. Still no sign of Mom. “Pretty and tasty.”

“Thanks, but we aren’t talking about the drink. Unless talking about a drink involves you and me getting a drink when I get off,” he said, and my gaze swung back to his sharply. He arched one brow when he had my attention. “Then I’m all about having a drink.”

My eyes narrowed as I squirmed in my seat. This . . . this I wasn’t accustomed to. “Are you for real?”

Both brows rose, but instead of backing off, he did that thing with his eyes again, slowly tracking over my face, lingering on my lips, before locking with my own blue peepers. “Yeah, honey, I’m real.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“Isn’t that what getting drinks together usually takes care of? The getting to know each other part.”

I was floored. “We literally just met a handful of minutes ago.”

“Already explained that, but I’ll explain something else to you. When I want something, I go for it. Life is way too damn short to live any other way. And I want to get to know you better.” Those lashes lowered one more time, his gaze tracking to my lips like they were some kind of mecca. “Yeah, I definitely want to get to know you better.”

Holy cowbells.

I opened my mouth, but I had no idea how to respond to that, and before I could even come up with a coherent and worthy response, I jumped at the sound of my name.

“Calla?” boomed a deep, gravelly voice. “Calla, is that you?”

My attention swung toward the Dutch doors, and my mouth dropped as I put the familiar voice to the big, bulky, bald guy.

Uncle Clyde, who wasn’t my uncle, but had been around since, well, forever, barreled his way toward us. A big, toothy smile broke out across his ruddy face. “Holy shit for Saturday dinner, it is you!”

I wiggled my fingers in his direction, and my lips split in a smile. Uncle Clyde hadn’t changed one bit in the three years I’d been gone.

Hot Bartender Dude was quiet as he drew back, but I knew what he had to be thinking if he realized I was Mona’s daughter.

Then Uncle Clyde was on me. The big old bear got his massive arms around me and lifted me clear out of the bar stool. My feet dangled in the air as he hugged me, forcing me to squeeze my toes around the thin strap of my flip-flops.

But I didn’t mind if I lost my shoes or was currently having a hard time breathing. Uncle Clyde . . . God, had been there since the beginning, cooking in the kitchen when Dad and Mom first opened Mona’s, and he’d hung around long after everything had gone to crap and then some. And he was still here.

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